HL Deb 06 July 1982 vol 432 cc724-9

7.35 p.m.

Read a third time, with the amendments.

Clause 2 [Exclusion of exhibitions promoted for private gain from certain exemptions under the 1909 and 1952 Acts]:

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 1, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (1A) below").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, Amendment No. 1 is quite apparently a paving amendment, and I think it would be to the convenience of the House if I were in fact to speak to Amendment No. 3, and with it to fit in the effect of Amendment No. 4 as well, so that we may see the whole matter in what is, I hope, a proper perspective. I would by way of introduction say that I hope that those who participated in the debate last Thursday—and I see that all the protagonists are here again tonight—will appreciate that what they said then has indeed led to a very substantial amount of re-thinking of the points that they made. Whether or not it be in order or fashionable, I propose to say that there are, I know, two persons who have been advising Members of this House of all parties—I think literally all parties—who have worked virtually through-out the weekend in order to try to achieve an acceptable compromise upon this matter. I do not think it would he right if we did not acknowledge the hard work that they have done and the enormous number of telephone calls and other communications they have made and consultations that they have carried out.

In a nutshell, the trouble has been that we tried under Clause 2 to stop the bogus club-cinema which was showing pornographic and other material. It was operating under a loophole in the cinematograph licensing legislation. The first problem that arose was that the way in which the Bill was drafted in order to do that led to some doubts whether, in the process, it was not going to lead to the requirement for local authorities to license things like the ordinary retail outlet in the high street which sells and hires video tapes—and I remind your Lordships that I have to declare an interest in this in being involved in a company which has a number of those shops—and, indeed, a number of other perfectly harmless forms of exhibition of either video or film, which nobody wished to have subjected to the licensing system at all. That was one end of the spectrum.

Then there were others who said, and I think justifiably said—I never denied that this was a problem—that there was, by contrast, the possibility that if a number of persons, for instance in a perfectly ordinary public-house, not one which made a speciality of this, chose to exploit, as has been done before, the interstices of this legislation—a bogus club or a bogus pub or a bogus restaurant—we would have a situation where we were in effect back to unlicensed exhibitions of film and tape but under a different form from that which had been previously so much attacked.

What, therefore, we now have is, I am afraid, a very complicated Clause 2, but the effect of the two substantive amendments, which are Nos. 3 and 4, is this. If I may take the House very briefly through the way in which it will go, we shall have a proposition which says that no longer will an exhibition promoted for private gain be excluded from licensing—and that means both safety and censorship licensing. That is the first proposition. Then, if one looks at Amendment No. 3 one finds that that particular proposition does not apply to the harmless outlets which, in this amendment, have been identified: the high street shop and attempts to advertise goods or services, which are probably also the high street shop, or to provide information, education or instruction, which is a matter, particularly in the world of training, which I know is very close to the heart of my honourable friend the Member for Fareham, whose Bill this was in another place and to whom it will return, I hope, very soon. Therefore, we have to some extent adopted a list system but on a generalised basis in order to make it clear that the things everybody agreed did not need licensing will not be considered to be a matter of private gain at all.

Then we come to what is now subsection (2) in the clause as printed where we have a definition of what is to be private gain for the purposes of this licensing; and we are to add to it, in Amendment No. 4, the new concept of an exhibition which is advertised. The distinction here, I think, very simply is that if the public (to take the case we were discussing last week) makes a point of saying that on Tuesdays and Thursdays one is going to have full-length feature films and advertises this either in general or in some rather more limited way—and the same would apply to any other sort of club—then one will fall within the provisions of promoting an exhibition for private gain and therefore will have to have the necessary licensing provisions applied.

The breakthrough has been really in the picking up of the point about advertising. It means therefore—and this is the point which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and I were discussing last week—that if the television screen behind the bar is purely incidental and does not form part of any promotion for the clients of that public house but is simply there to show what happened in the World Cup forum, even if that is shown a few hours later, because otherwise it would be exempted anyway, that would not be caught. Therefore we have in subsection (2) a number of things which are considered to be exhibitions promoted for private gain.

In subsection (3), as now printed, there will be the rather more borderline cases where it will be for the prosecution to show that those particular activities were taking place but that will not be necessarily conclusive because it will be possible for the defence to show that, despite the apparent facts, these did not lead to the promotion of an exhibition for private gain. There will be, therefore, a third category where the defence has a list of criteria which it is able to deny and whereby the prosecution will fail to succeed.

As your Lordships will see, it has turned into a fairly difficult series of subsections and I have been concerned overall, considering that this is largely going to come before lay magistrates in magistrates' courts, to see whether there is a comprehensible balance of factors. But I think that, if it is looked at in the way that I attempted to describe it, it is something which it is not impossible to pick one's way through; and, in the process, I believe that we have picked up the points that noble Lords have made from various parts of the House. I think we have, as I would remind the House, safeguards for any dubious areas that may still be a matter of doubt in the other legislation on which I have always relied as being a standby when the cine-matograph licensing legislation on its own will not do; and, therefore, perhaps we have now reached a point where those who were good enough not to divide the House last Thursday against the amendments that I put down will see their faith fulfilled and something that is now acceptable to put forward to your Lordships. At this stage, I beg to move Amendment No. 1 which is a paving amendment to Amendment No. 3.

7.44 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount on bringing his legislation to this stage. I have never been very keen on restrictive legislation and I am no great enthusiast for the cinematographic legislation of this country. Even with the addition of this Bill as amended, it seems to me still to be something of a dog's dinner, as I think many people who look at it will agree. I was among those who joined in the abolition of the pre-censorship which used to exist on the theatre under the aegis of the Lord Chamberlain, who enthusiastically abolished himself a few years ago and, therefore, I have always been something of a minimalist in this area.

I believe that whatever legislation exists should be the same for all people who operate in the same area. This is what this Bill will do. This is what this amendment finally does because we have had two sorts of commercial operator—the commercial operator who freely says he is a commercial operator in the business for legitimate private gain, and the commercial operator who has masqueraded as a club but has been even more commercial than the most commercial of operators. Therefore, we have done something here which rectifies that injustice between one type of operator and another.

Also I think we are doing something which is even more necessary, and that is we shall equalise the safety precautions in the same areas so that the same considerations will begin to apply over a period to the commercial club as to the ordinary commercial operator. With great ingenuity—and this he was kind enough to recognise with some assistance—the noble Viscount has dealt with and answered the objections raised at an earlier stage in the Bill. He has provided that those things which ought to be caught by the Bill will now be caught whereas those which ought not to be caught will, I think, as far as human ingenuity can make it so, not be caught. This is what the amendment which the noble Viscount has moved will do, and for that reason, for myself, I welcome it and commend it to the House.

Lord Birkett

My Lords, at the Report stage last Thursday, as I understood it, there never was disagreement about the intention of the Bill or what it was to do. The argument was about loopholes. I believe that these amendments very successfully have brought all parties together and I rise only to echo the noble Viscount's tribute to those officers who worked so untiringly to get it together; to say that I support all his amendments because I believe the cinema industry in particular and the public in general will have cause to be grateful for them; and also to congratulate him and to say that we are immensely obliged to him.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, there appears a seemly unanimity in the House at this moment. I have not risen to break that spirit but to add my voice on behalf of my noble friends and myself in saying that this is a very sensible amendment. I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount and, if I may say so, add my thanks to the Minister whose officials also have helped in the intervening period to see that acceptable wording is now in the Bill.

It was an example of tolerance from the point of view of the noble Viscount, of understanding from the point of view of those who moved an amendment last time, and of a spirit of reconciliation which almost took on the form of ACAS so far as the Home Office was concerned. A very desirable result has been achieved in regard to the amendments which the noble Viscount explained so eloquently to the House.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I do not want to protract this series of encomiums heaped on the head of my noble friend, but I should like to add my congratulations on what is a happy outcome and one which has shown this House and the functions of Government probably at their best in bringing legislation in very quick order into line with the interests of those most closely affected by it. It is not necessary for me to read out my brief explaining what the noble Viscount has done by these amendments because he has done it so exceedingly well himself. In adding my thanks to those who have contributed to this, both inside and outside the House, I should like particularly to say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, that tonight, as a result of every-body's efforts, the dog has got a very much better dinner than usual.

Viscount Colville of Culross

My Lords, this is indeed a very happy outcome. I forgot to say one thing to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and that was that we did look very carefully at the approach which was embodied in his amendment to see whether that might be the better way in which to do this. I am glad to find him not insisting on that any longer but happy with the way we have done it. I am grateful to all those who have spoken, and may I just say in this particular connection that, although historically I undoubtedly was a "Vice-count", I think that perhaps just at the moment I had better stick to my modern pronunciation.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 3, leave out from ("which") to ("and") in line 5 and insert ("section 7(4) of the 1909 Act (exhibitions in private dwelling-houses) applies").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 7, at end insert— ("(IA) Subsection (1) above does not apply to an exhibition the sole or main purpose of which is to demonstrate any product, to advertise any goods or services or to provide information, education or instruction.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I have spoken to this amendment and it has already been approved. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 15, at end insert ("or (c) where the exhibition is advertised (whether to the public or otherwise), any sums not falling within paragraph (b) above which are paid for facilities or services provided for persons admitted to the exhibition,").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, similarly, I explained this earlier and it met with the approval of those who have spoken. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No. 5: Page 2, line 20, leave out ("payment was required") and insert ("any sums were paid").

The noble Viscount said: This amendment is consequential, my Lords, and I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 2, leave out lines 23 to 25 and insert— ("(b) that any sums were paid for facilities or services provided for persons admitted to the exhibition and that the exhibition was advertised (whether to the public or otherwise); or").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this amendment is also consequential. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Colville of Culross

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I want only to add one more word, and that is that I hope this Bill, in view of the Motion now before the House, will go to another place, will be considered very speedily and will very soon pass into law. The capital city possibly needs this legislation more than most cities, but there are many cities and rural areas in the United Kingdom which will undoubtedly benefit from the passing of this legislation, and I congratulate the noble Viscount on steering it through the House.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.20 P.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.55 until 8.20 p.m.]